Getting Government initiatives “unstuck”

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  David Dejewski 6 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #144738

    Katherine Ryan

    Why do government initiatives get stuck? How do gov execs get them unstuck?

    Read about the secret sauce for getting people to work As One in GovLab’s latest study:

    What’s gotten “stuck” in your organization? How could this playbook have helped?

  • #144740

    David Dejewski

    I could probably pen a thesis on this subject if I cared to.

    • Individual’s motivation is a factor
    • Prioritization is a factor
    • Resources are a factor
    • Competency is a factor
    • Fear is a factor
    • Politics are a factor
    • The nature of the government beast is a factor
    • Communication is a factor

    I’m sure some brainstorming could uncover others. For every person who can or will say “yes” in government, there are untold numbers (seems like hundreds) who can and will say “no.”

    I would add that it’s not always government execs who want initiatives unstuck. In fact, in my experience, it’s sometimes government execs who get them stuck – either deliberately or because they operate in a culture that does not encourage the coordinating mechanisms needed to make the environment efficient.

    I read through this playbook. I compared what I read with my own experience. As a senior supervisory GS-15 who’s held titles like “Chief for Defense Business Transformation” and “Director for Enterprise Transformation Planning,” Chief Information Officer,” and “Division Head, for Congressional Response, Customer Relations and Planning;” I’ve seen a few similar play-books and have been responsible for implementing a few of my own – on and off paper.

    In my judgement, it’s a nice intellectual exercise, but contact with the real world tends to wrinkle, tear, and bleed coffee over the pages of guides like these. There are a lot of assumptions made in a play-book like this that only really apply in the lab. As I’m typing this, I’m looking at page 19, so I’ll use that as an example. It’s under the heading of “Make it grow.”

    Create new habits” is followed by a single six line paragraph. Until you’ve tried to “create new habits” in 1.2 million people deployed around the globe – or even 365 thousand employees you have some type of command and control over (very loosely through policy or procedure), it’s hard to appreciate the complexity of that statement. Take that one paragraph on as a task, and you could easily have the foundation for a new agency.

    Use incentives” is another good example. Sure… we can all agree that incentives can be a good thing, but what incentivizes one group may be (and usually is) different from what incentivizes another. Incentives not applied correctly can actually have a negative affect on a project – getting an effort “stuck.”

    Explain the reasons for the effort:” there are often as many reasons as there are leaders implementing an effort. There is some master set of reasons, but the farther an effort gets from it’s epicenter, the more customized and local the reasons get. As an example, the reason for having an electronic health record for headquarters is very different from the reason medical surveillance people want it, or the reason medical providers providing direct care want it, or the reason why insurance claims adjusters want it. The confluence of reasons behind a large-scale, government or defense-wide effort cause conflicts all the way down to the individual lines of code.

    I won’t knit pick at any more paragraphs for the sake of brevity, but my point is the example referenced in this guide (NSPS) and other real-world issues present a great many challenges to the government that simply aren’t covered by a play-book like this. If I were to take this play-book into one of my former project meetings, I would have been shredded by the “old salts” who would have tagged me for a wet-nosed newbie within five minutes of table introductions.

    That said, there are lot’s of good high level concepts in this document. It might be helpful to use some of the bolded headers as top level titles for separate initiatives or tasks in a WBS. Just don’t think that reading a guide like this is going to get a project like NSPS, the Census Bureau’s hand-held device project, or any other major Transformation initiative into the end zone.

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